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NASA's Deep Space Network, a collection of antennae throughout the globe, is sometimes used to support earth-orbiting missions:

The NASA Deep Space Network - or DSN - is an international network of antennas that supports interplanetary spacecraft missions and radio and radar astronomy observations for the exploration of the solar system and the universe. The network also supports selected Earth-orbiting missions.

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                                                            One of the DSN's 70-meter antenae

Which earth-orbiting missions are currently using the DSN? What benefit do they receive by doing so?

thanks to @Everyone for letting me steal his question idea

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Several Earth orbiting missions currently use the DSN, all of which are either in highly elliptical orbits or in lunar orbit (which is, in turn, in Earth orbit). On this page, you can see many of them being tracked by the DSN antennas in Canberra. Some of the ones there, with their orbits, are:

  • ACE, 179 km x 1256768 km
  • GEOTAIL, 47824 km x 193019 km
  • Chandra, 16000 km x 133000 km
  • Cluster, 19000 km x 119000 km
  • LADEE, currently in a 250 km orbit about the Moon
  • LRO, 50 km orbit about the Moon
  • THEMIS, three spacecraft in highly elliptical Earth orbit, two in lunar orbit
  • WIND, highly elliptical Earth orbit

The benefit they receive from the DSN are high data rates at relatively large distances.

Your title question differs from your body question, and is not supported by the quote. There are no LEO missions supported by the DSN.

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None. NASA uses Near Earth Network (NEN) for telemetry, commanding, ground-based tracking, data and communications with satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO), that is a part of NASA's Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) network, including NEN, Space Network (SN) and Deep Space Network (DSN) managed by NASA's Networks Integration Management Office (NIMO).

NEN currently consists of these NASA owned, contracted and commercial ground stations:

  • Alaska Satellite Facility, Fairbanks
  • USN Alaska, Poker Flat and North Pole
  • Gilmore Creek, Alaska (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)
  • Wallops, Virginia Ground Station
  • KSAT Svalbard, Norway
  • SSC Kiruna, Sweden
  • USN Germany, Weilheim
  • KSAT Singapore, Malaysia
  • USN Australia, Dongara
  • McMurdo, Antarctica Ground Station
  • South African National Space Agency, Hartebeesthoek, South Africa
  • KSAT TrollSat, Antarctica
  • SSC Santiago, Chile
  • White Sands Ground Station, New Mexico
  • USN Hawaii, South Point

(KSAT = Kongsberg Satellite Services, SSC = Swedish Space Corporation, USN = Universal Space Network)

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   Map of Near Earth Network Sites (Source: NASA Near Earth Network)

NEN also uses:

  • Satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO)
  • Satellites in geosynchronous orbit (GEO)
  • Satellites in highly elliptical orbit
  • Satellites in Lunar orbit
  • Satellites with multiple frequency bands

The spacecraft that are orbiting the closest to Low Earth Orbit (LEO), which stretches from an altitude of 160 to 2,000 kilometers (99 to 1,200 miles) above sea-level, and that are supported by DSN are currently (including one near-future mission scheduled for 2014):

  • ESA Cluster II of two spacecraft currently in elliptical polar orbit with 57 hours period, perigee of 19,000 km, and apogee of 119,000 km
  • NASA Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) Observatory is a near-future mission of two spacecraft that will occupy an elliptical orbit with inclination of 28.0°, perigee of 7,640 km, and apogee of 76,400 km
  • ISAS/NASA/JAXA GEOTAIL mission with a single spacecraft currently in highly elliptical orbit with inclination of 22°, perigee of 47,824 km, and apogee of 193,019 km

Other current space missions supported by DSN are even further away from Earth, either interplanetary probes, orbiters, rovers, etc., deep space probes, a few space observatories and perhaps the next closest - Lunar orbiters. DSN for missions closer to Earth often serves as an extension of other NASA operated SCaN networks, NEN and SN.

Current and planned future missions supported by SCaN are listed on following pages:

Pages list which NASA communications networks they are supported by.

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